Friday, March 30, 2012

March 2012 Middle Vaal Report


During the last few weeks the Vaal has been in the news for all the wrong reasons again. The culprit is nothing new but due to lower rainfall, warmer water, higher levels of organic matter the algae bloom is out of control. The Barrage is now starting to resemble Harties (a fishing paradise when I was a kid) and judging from reports is fast becoming irreversibly damaged. And it is not so much about the fishing but more about the quality of strategic water supply and the future use of it – think food for a growing population.
The state of the river has left most fishermen depressed and avoiding the river. I do not foresee an improvement in the quality of Barrage water in the next few weeks so the outlook is bleak. Talks of flushing the Barrage system is short term and will not improve the quality of water in the open system downstream – in fact the opposite will happen. Continued pressure is the only way we will get the required changes. Instead of launching a lone crusade a good idea would be to join up with the guys from SAVE
If you need to get the fix my suggestion is to travel or explore the lesser know rivers and tributary streams of the Vaal. I can see and feel the onset of winter, the changes are very subtle but enough for you to have to start making changes to your approach. The fish will be out of the shallow riffles and rapids, only venturing there late afternoon if the food is there. Start a bit later in the morning and search the deeper water below the rapids. It will require better line or fly control to connect to the fish.

Update! Since my post to FOSAF I've received some very positive reports on the river. Photo evidence suggest visibility is cracking - around 1 meter maybe more. That means one thing, get out and onto the river in the following few weeks. Don't forget to pack the dry flies, conditions will be perfect for sight fishing.

Over the years I've been trying to improve the quality of the photos on the Blog, and I think I'm getting there. But Chris and his mates have upped the bar with this video of a day out on the Vaal. Awesome work guys, like the editing

Carl & Keith

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

February 2012 Middle Vaal Report

Blanking is not a concept I’m used to in fishing. Certainly not when the other members of the party are successful – my son, my wife and my complete novice mate Hennie weighing in with a 1.8kg trout. 

Driving to Dullies I was reminiscing about my introductory days to fly fishing. I was the same age as my son - 10 with tons of enthusiasm and a real love for the veldt I got from my dad. Boy how much has changed since then and how much have I learnt over the years. 

I very rarely blanked in the early days because I was relentlessly pursuing the trout knowing that they have to eat at some stage. I think I was better prepared and focused in those days - I only had to pack MY gear, now it's food, wine kids stuff, photographic equipment etc.

No subdued colours
yet the fish take the fly?
In mitigation I did not use a sinking line and the successful members of the family held onto the only intermediate. These days I very rarely fish for trout so the usefulness of a sinker in my tackle bag literally disintegrated and I never replaced it. If I blanked with free rising trout all around me I would consider it a failure in my fishing ability :-).

The conditions dictated that I relent and get down where the fish are. Warm water due to a few weeks of hot weather and less rain than normal, meant the surface was void of feeding fish. I just hate those days when the visual aspect of fly fishing is taken out of the equation so I improvised and spent some of my fishing time taking photos. Reading Peter’s report on Dullstroom this week I’m not feeling so bad.

It is a good thing the Vaal is in great condition compared to the corresponding months the last few years. Flow rates are within the fishable levels and the spawn is over in most areas. 

Fishing reports are sketchy and some guys are battling to get the fish on the hook and in the net. I think it is a temporary thing as traditionally this is the best time of the season, leading into the early autumn when the smallies start moving out of the rapids.

If you are blanking, take a step back and just re-evaluate your tactics. Or take up another hobby until you get your mojo back and the fish start jumping into your landing net.

Sunset in Dullstroom

Carl & Keith

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

January 2012 Middle Vaal Report

Apologies for the hiatus over the December holidays. Work and holiday got in the way of fishing reports, mostly work. I trust you had a good rest and enjoyed fly fishing possibly in some other part of this country covered by the many reports on the FOSAF site.
Sedgefield late afternoon fly fishing
I had one decent session with the Garrick at Sedgefield, small fish but on light tackle it was exiting. For the rest of the holiday success evaded me due to some obscure reason only saltwater fish know about.

Through some cunning planning and negotiation I managed to convince the family to stay over at Rooipoort near Kimberley on the way back home. It has always been on my bucket list to visit this unspoilt part of our country and to fish for the Yellowfish in the Vaal bordering the reserve.

A magnificent Red Hartebeest bull, Rooipoort
We arrived late afternoon on New Year ’s Eve, not enough time to fish but I did get to drive down to the river. This place is big, it’s 7km on a good dirt road to get to the river! I inspected the water in the last rays of 2011 sunlight. It looked promising but I did not see a rapid at this spot.

Petroglyphs, Rooipoort. Glad they're not in the Vaal anymore.
Next day I was back at the spot closest to the house. There were some fishy activity but as far as the eye can see it was flat open water. I walked the banks trying to spot feeding fish, while my efforts was unsuccessful I spotted a new species for me, some very big. Grass carp with their yellowish bodies almost confused with our beloved yellow – a flat head and black markings on the tail showed them up. They also refused the fly. I continued downstream stopping whenever the riverine bush allowed but a walk along the banks proved futile. The only fish I saw were the grass carp cruising and the occasional catfish.

The long flat piece of water continued for at least 5km maybe even longer. Eventually I could spot a change in features downstream – islands with channels and reeds. As I walked out of the bush I could hear the murmur of the river and then the full force of destruction hit me. This whole area was being mined by the “community” bordering the reserve. Full on earth works right in the middle of the stream bed, damming up and channelling the flow and a big 3X2m oil spill left right there. Some very large and powerful machinery was used here. I walked to the spot where I could hear the water, it was gushing through 2 or 3 storm water pipes. I got one yellow there.

I drove further downstream looking for a place that resembled a natural stream bed, something like the middle Vaal. The next drift (shallow section) looked better at least the mining was done on the banks clearly by a large contract mining operation. Being 1 January all looked quiet only a few people moving about and the tell-tale string of 2 litre bottles across the river. Obviously holding up a gill net supplying someone with protein or income. I wish it could selectively catch the hundreds of grass carp that I saw during the day. I got a few consolation yellows from the deeper channels. The river at this place was nice and clear affording me an opportunity to search for feeding yellows but the only fish visible in the shallow water was grass carp. After a disappointing day I called it quits and started the long trip back.

The reports I get to see from the middle Vaal are positive. Beginning December the water was still clear, with the moderate rainfall it should remain like that. If you time your trip with decent flows you will fish one of the best pieces of fly fishing water in the world.

New Year Milkyway

Cheers from

Carl & Keith